An Audience of One

Somewhere recently (sorry, I couldn’t find the citation, even on google) I read that when a pastor preaches, he should imagine he has an audience of one.  In other words, he should not aim to please his congregation, the visitors to his website or the world at large — his only purpose should be to please God.  I’m sure many of them have this in mind, because I have heard more than one minister start his sermon with this verse:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14

It occurs to me that this advice is sound for all of us, not only pastors.  We should all be living our lives this way– and not just the words that come our of our mouth, but our behavior.  Too often we’re people pleasers.  We don’t want to offend.  We don’t want to make others angry or stir up controversy.  We don’t want to sound judgemental.  We try to be “politically correct.”  We worry about whether our friends on Facebook or our twitter followers will desert us.  We want to fit in.  We want others to like us.  We want to be admired in the workplace.  We allow these feelings to influence us, and that may mean we keep quiet when we should speak up.  We tone down the Gospel.  We do or say things we know to be wrong to avoid looking prudish. We want our worldly audience to think well of us.

I’m not advocating beating others over the head with the Bible or behaving in ways that imply we’re better than they are (we’re not–we just know we’re bad!)  We can speak the truth in love, gently and respectfully, but once we know the truth we must be willing to speak it and live it.  Play to your audience.  He’s the only One who counts.

“So whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31


Protecting the Pastor’s Time -Fanning the Flame CD

Once again our Fanning the Flame team gathered to listen to a CD.  This time the topic was “protecting the Pastor’s time.”  It started out with a reading from Acts, Chapter 6.  There is a controversy about the daily division of food, and the twelve disciples gathered together and decided:

“It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.  Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  Acts 6:2-4

Notice it is not a question of the disciples being “too good” to perform such a menial task.  The men selected were also well respected, wise and spiritual.  It is a matter or prioritizing duties.  The disciples were called to a particular ministry, and they needed to focus on that responsibility.

Strangely (or not so strangely) enough, we were also recently reading this passage in Sunday School, as part of our study of spiritual gifts.  Certain gifts such as apostleship, teaching, shepherding and evangelism (probably most pastors have one or more of these) build up the body of Christ — they help it to grow, spiritually and numerically.  If the Pastor is distracted by too many “emergencies” and cannot concentrate on these gifts, the body will suffer.  According to the speaker, a good preacher will spend up to 22 hours per week in prayer, study and sermon preparation.  Is this really important?  Well, studies have shown that one of the biggest factors in whether visitors chose to join a particular church is the quality of the sermons and the preparedness of the preacher.  So, yes, it is.  Also, this speaker contends that a pastor’s counseling load will go down if his preaching is earnest and compelling enough to make a difference in the way his congregants lead their lives.

I actually think our congregation is quite respectful of my husband’s time.  However, as part of our Fanning the Flame process, he is trying to pull back from certain responsibilities that really aren’t his — for example, attending Church Council meetings.  He now goes to begin the meeting with some devotions and then leaves the council members to their work.  There is really no reason for him to be involved in getting the plumbing fixed, or scheduling the church picnic.

This CD urged pastors and church leaders to agree upon a list of 3-5 priorities for the pastor.  The list would probably include:

  1. Prayer and study
  2. Teaching and preaching the Word
  3. Leadership development

The CD also stressed the need for a commonly understood plan for all members to pray regularly for their pastor and church leaders.  This could even include signing a pledge or covenant and setting a particular time of the day.

The bottom line?  Your Pastor and every pastor needs to continue to grow in his relationship with the Lord.  His preaching should flow out of his devotional life.